A man-of-the-cloth friend asked my advice the other day. “Wait a minute,” thought I. “We supplicants are supposed to be the ones asking his advice when we have issues.” And I wasn’t prepared for his question.
“What do you think about a church study class dealing with politics and religion,” was his query? “I know both are touchy issues.”
“Touchy?” No more than cooking steak for a Hindu picnic. But what surprised me more than his question was the quickness and firmness of my response.
“Not only do I think you should,” I said, “I think it should be part of the faith programs of all churches that feel a responsibility to work in the worldly community of their parishioners. Not so those same parishioners are taught some obligation to vote or think a certain way, but so they can resolve issues of religion and politics that most of us have but are unsure how to reconcile.”
Then, in days following our discussion, I ran across an article by Rachel Held Evans who writes professionally about issues of faith and politics from an evangelical perspective.
Armed with a bundle of recent religious surveys, Ms. Evans concluded many young adults are turning their backs – especially on evangelical churches – because “they perceive evangelical churches to be too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
She wrote, “I point to research showing young evangelicals often feel they must choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a set of rules when these same millennials long for faith communities in which they’re safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.”
Ministers wearing jeans, a fancy coffee shop in fellowship hall, larger worship bands and other current “style changes” are not what she means. She points out millennials were raised on advertising and rock bands and have a “sensitive B.S. meter.” It may be those “style changes” are some of the very things causing an exodus among the young.
Evans says many of her peers are being drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with ‘being cool’ and are refreshingly authentic.
“We want a truce between science and faith,” she wrote. “We want to be known for what we stand for – not what we re against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the Kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single (political) party or a single nation.”
One more thing from Ms. Evans: “Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from 40-somethings and grandmothers – Generation Xers and retirees. Their messages are clear: ‘Me, too!’”
Just after reading her latest work, the collective worlds of modern Christianity and politics collided full-on for me as Pope Francis stunned many Catholics and much of the rest of the world. When asked about gay men in the priesthood, he responded “Who am I to judge them?” There must be some new cracks in the old Vatican walls. (more…)